IIIM Magazine Online, Volume 3, Number 47, November 19 to November 25, 2001

Music Matters
Show 2

by Robert Barnes

Originally aired Monday at 5:50 P.M. on WTLN 950 AM in Orlando, Florida, Music Matters is a weekly radio show that explores the nature of and antidote for the worship wars that exist in the church.

Good day, I'm Robert Barnes. God is the greatest musician in the universe. He has constructed great symphonies of order and chaos, tidal fugues, lyrical larks, and he has gifted mankind with a vast capacity to mimic His artistic flair. But how do we know when we have copied our Master rightly? That's our question today on Music Matters.

Let's get right to the point this week. Music matters to God. He inspired the Psalms, which are lyrics that would have been put to a variety of Hebrew melodies and used in a variety of public, private, and royal situations. The book of Revelation shows non-Psalms being sung by heavenly hosts, we assume with accompanying music. But notice he did not record those melodies for us in the Bible. If he would have, then we wouldn't be having this conversation. We would know for sure what God's favorite music sounds like. But my Bible does not have sheet music in the middle—it only has God's inerrant Word. I would offer that if God had wanted a very specific melodic and harmonic form for His music, he would have given it to us so we would obey him. But He has chosen to be silent in this area. Since the Bible is silent, we will wait a few weeks before we discuss an aesthetic of music, the principles that describe good music and bad music.

But, if you are dealing with a song that has words, God has given us a guide: His holy Word! The words to our Psalms, hymns, and Scripture songs that accompany our public and private worship should reflect the worship values of the Bible, and I've summarized those values into three descriptive terms that I will unpack over the next three weeks. Those terms are: God-centered, Biblical, and Relevant meaning:

  1. All facets of our worship of God ought to focus on Him rather than us: God-Centered.

  2. Our worship ought to be positively engineered or designed or patterned after how God has said he wants to be worshiped, and negatively, we should not worship in ways God has forbidden: Biblical.

  3. Our worship should be designed to be understandable to the layperson, not so musically difficult that they cannot follow, nor should the words be too difficult to understand: Relevant.

There are other ways to summarize God's wisdom in this area. There are certainly limitations in this summary, because you can't say everything about anything or you'll never say anything at all.

The words of the songs we sing stick with us. I have more useless song lyrics in my head than I do Scriptures, and most of them are from supposedly Christian songs. Have you ever compared the lyrics of the so-called Christian songs we hear on the radio or sing in church to the Scriptures?

Take the old Scripture song made popular by Phil Driscol's instrumental version, "Blow the Trumpet in Zion." "They rush on the city, they run on the walls! Great is the army that carries out His word." I sang that song in church about a hundred times before I realized that it misrepresents the meaning of that passage from Joel 2:9-11. It's not God's people who are pictured as rushing around, overwhelming their enemies. God is announcing a great Day of Judgment where He will send invaders to destroy Jerusalem! Look at the passage yourself; you'll see that God's people are being punished, not being victorious.

But it made a good song, didn't it? Brothers and sisters, compare God's Word to the lyrics you are putting into your mind and into the lives of your children. They will stick with you forever. Don't believe me?

"I am he as you are he as you are me
and we are all together
See how they run like pigs from a gun
see how they fly
I'm crying."
See what I mean? You know that song better than most hymns. Tune in next week and see why God-centered, biblical, and relevant Music Matters to God.